BLS vs. CPR: When & Where to Use Each

April 1, 2021
April 1, 2021

If you’ve trained and become certified in the life-saving technique of CPR, well done! Similar kudos if you have trained in BLS, or Basic Life Support, which is similar to CPR but involves some specific additional training and is most often accorded to individuals who work in the healthcare field. In simpler terms, CPR is an area of study that falls under the larger umbrella of BLS training and certification.


Now the question: What’s the difference between the two, and which one is best in a specific situation? The differences can be subtle, and so it’s worth exploring BLS vs. CPR when it comes to helping people in need and saving lives.

Let’s start by looking at what BLS training and certification usually means. The treatments and actions that are taught in a BLS certification course are the same as those taught in its CPR counterpart. Those include:

  • clearing and maintaining an open airway
  • keeping the blood and oxygen circulating in the body of an unconscious patient without mechanical help
  • the basic use of an automatic external defibrillator, or AED
  • any other first-aid techniques necessary

BLS training teaches all those, and layers on more in-depth skills that would come into play in a hospital setting, such as:

  • administering oxygen
  • additional rescue-breathing techniques
  • the team approach to CPR
  • advanced airway management
  • the use of a bag -mask apparatus

The BLS certification is usually required for specific healthcare positions, such as but not limited to, board-certified doctors, EMTs, lifeguards, nurses and pharmacists, and most laypeople would have no need of this advanced training. Even those who work with children or others who might need resuscitation training are more than qualified to offer in-the-moment assistance with CPR certification.

And on the flip side, a CPR certification course may add in some areas of study that a BLS course would not, such as a full suite of first-aid techniques, as well as how to be aware of and avoid contact with blood pathogens.

BLS & CPR in the Real World

Here are two examples of when each technique is used to achieve the best outcome for the patient:

  • If a hospitalized child stopped breathing, a team of nurses would work together to restore that function. They would use their BLS training to ensure that sterile instruments and supplies were engaged, and also work as a team to follow the protocols and steps to achieve the best outcome.
  • If someone were on a city walkway enjoying a pleasant afternoon and saw a person ahead of them fall to the ground with the signs and symptoms of cardiac arrest, then he or she would put the tools and techniques learned in a CPR certification course into action, providing support until EMTs or other professional providers could reach the scene.

If you have an interest BLS certification or CPR certified, or are in a field where one or the other is highly suggested or required, there are many training options available to you, such as those found here. You’ll come away with the ability to help save a life in many different types of situations and be an asset to both your workplace and community.

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